Posts Tagged ‘Texting’

CAN WE TALK?

I’ve been looking at photos of myself. My friend Ellen Newman took them. I’m not playing out the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his image in a pool of water. I need an updated author’s headshot for my new novel The Boy Walker, officially launching this February. Alas, like most people, I see images on screen that don’t match those inside my head.

Oh that we could all look like Hollywood stars! Of course, movies and TV are about illusion. The camera often loves our idols only after extensive assistance from hairdressers, makeup artists, costume designers, the occasional apple box on which to appear taller, and a cinematographer’s skilled adjustment of lights and camera angles.

Beauty of the soul is another matter. It’s found on the inside and requires some searching out. This takes effort. So we often drift towards what lies on the surface, deceiving ourselves that “what you see is what you get.”

I see a parallel with technology. Oh how easily we fall in love with bells and whistles. Millions of people can’t do without tech’s equivalents of the Kardashians and the housewives of New Jersey. Technology often seems to exist for its own sake. Anything that can be programmed must be worthwhile. “I exist, therefore I’m meaningful.”

Here in San Francisco, headquarters of social media, Heaven help those who don’t prostrate themselves to the gods of code. A recent article in the Chronicle explained that many adults take classes to relate to younger, twenty-something programmers. Said programmers can be quite dismissive of anyone who doesn’t speak their language. It’s like the old ‘sixties protest: “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” Lacking patience and basic communications skills, they turn off to their clients—the very people who pay them. This can throw a digital monkey wrench into the plans of anyone trying to get a website going.

Am I now an official curmudgeon in spite of using an (old) iPhone? Check out any restaurant. It’s a rare table at which one or more—or all—diners under thirty aren’t engrossed with their devices. Older folks, too. They text, tweet, comment on Facebook or engage with email. The world must know what they’re eating and drinking, and when they go to the bathroom. Right now! Rather than talk, they flash their screens at each other.

Ideally, technology makes communicating simpler by rendering physical distance irrelevant. Yet often it increases emotional distance. People seem increasingly challenged to converse face to face. It’s hard to engage a person whose device puts someone supposedly more exciting a click away. I’m reminded of cocktail parties where guests keep looking past each other to search out more enticing partners for sharing empty smiles and inane babble.

As to my author photos, I’m satisfied. Still, they’re just digital representations. For the real me—the real you—you have to dig deeper. This post—a somewhat long-form use of technology—can help. But it’s no substitute for meeting in the flesh, taking time and making the effort to really get to know someone. There’s just no app for that.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of SAN CAFÉ and of SLICK!, named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 25 Best Indie Novels of 2012, at davidperlstein.com. Order at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com. 

WHEELS AND PAWS

This past week, a cyclist named Chris Bucchere pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter. In March 2012, he ran several red lights on his bike, hit and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian. Bucchere received three years probation and a thousand hours of community service. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon believes that this will send a message to other cyclists. I doubt it. If Gascon really wants to affect cyclists’ behavior, he should have them spend a few hours walking a dog. More on that in a moment.

As to cyclists, most know the law. Ninety percent—my personal observation—don’t obey it. I walk a lot. I’ve avoided being hurt by anticipating cyclists thinking that both stop signs and red lights mean speed up. Several weeks ago following the Gay Pride parade, Carolyn and I walked to a favorite restaurant—Sweet Maple—on Steiner and Sutter. Two cyclists hurtled down the sidewalk along the east side of Gough Street. We couldn’t see them—an apartment building stood on the corner. They came within a split-second of hitting—and perhaps killing—us.

Then there are drivers. Many isolate themselves with windows up and music blaring. They make phone calls on their cells. And they text. Stop signs? If they stop, they often do so only after entering a crosswalk where pedestrians have the right of way. Then they take off looking left towards oncoming traffic but not right where a pedestrian might be approaching. I can’t tell you how many times vehicles have sped past me, a stop sign prominently displayed, without a clue. A few days ago, the driver of a truck screeched to a halt at a stop sign when he finally saw me on the corner. What? He otherwise would have run it?

Now here’s the thing with dogs—and their owners. Off-leash, some can be a pain. Dogs that is. People, too. But most dog owners seem much more thoughtful than cyclists and drivers. Maybe that’s because they move more slowly; they’re pedestrians, too. But I think what really keeps dog-walkers under control is their immediate, visceral connection to another living being. A person and a dog form a relationship, not a gang.

Dogs calm people. Humans’ blood pressure goes down in their presence. Yes, we know about people who raise fighting dogs—a menace—but they’re only a small minority. When you have a dog, you accept the responsibility for the care and wellbeing of another creature that wants to give love as well as receive it.

I have some personal experience here because Carolyn and I often care for our “grand dog,” Saffy—a Chihuahua-something mix. I never had a dog before. I’m not likely to acquire one now. Yet I’ve experienced this special connection between human and canine. (I write about that in my next novel appearing in February, The Boy Walker.)

I wonder whether cyclists and drivers who habitually ignore pedestrians have dogs. I’m guessing most don’t. That’s too bad. If humans with wheels had special connections with creatures on four paws, they’d probably improve their connections to those on two feet.

I’ll be taking a few weeks off. Look for my next post later in August.

Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.

Read the first three chapters of David’s novels SAN CAFÉ and SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. You’ll also find online ordering links for iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.